Thursday, January 10, 2013

Leap-frogging into grandparenthood

A friend was speaking to me today about the fact that he met young people who said they didn't want to be parents but wished they could be grandparents. He expressed confusion. He wanted to know what did these young people mean?

The obvious meaning is that they don't want the responsibility of being parents -- the fuss, the time, energy, mess, fear, anxieties of the most difficult job in the world -- they want to fast-forward past all that and just be grandparents -- people who can enjoy a child for a few hours or even a whole day or week but always be able to hand back Joey or Zoey to the parents who takes all the responsibility.

Grandparents also enjoy the freedom to love purely without the demands of parenting. Since you're not responsible for the food, the dentist, the tutor, the rules about eating, dress, behavior, etc. -- you can simply love!! It's very sweet. You can love children in an extremely wholesome and undemanding way for the kids are no longer consciously or unconsciously an extension of your ego -- your looks, brains, musical ability or whatever else you had planned for your child -- they can just be who they are. And, without the overlay of ego, grandparents usually have a real curiosity about this new individual who's entered in the world without the desire to shape him or her into anything else.

Unfortunately, however, for all young people who wish to leapfrog over parenting and go straight to grandparenting, that's not how it works. You don't become chef in a kitchen without learning how to boil water and peel onions and scrub pans. Parenting comes first -- with its peculiar delights and major difficulties. You earn grandparentdom like you earn wrinkles and white hair -- it's a reward, an honor to be accepted, appreciated, and relished. As it usually is...

Downton Abbey -- What a pill!!

I find it hard to believe that even the most die-hard Downton Abbey fans of which there are legion could have really enjoyed the first episode of the new season. Hardly anything interesting or entertaining appeared. All the show was offered were tired story-lines (except maybe Bates and his cell mate). The conflict between Mary and Matthew seemed entirely trumped up while his receiving a huge fortune, at the same time Lord Grantham was losing his, was unbelievable (if the Lavinia's father had really believed Matthew was marrying Lavinia, wouldn't he select his future son-in-law as first in line for heir, not third). Of course no soap plot is entirely logical.

The coup de grace, however, was Shirley Maclaine in the role of Cora's mother. First of all, there was no familial affectionate connection between Shirley and Cora or with any of the granddaughters (except a tiny nod to Ethyl when she wants to marry an older man) -- it's one thing for the English to be such patent snobs but Cora is American and it is her mother. I don't even recall their having any intimate conversation. In the second place, presenting viewers with such a crass unattractive wealthy (possibly Jewish as her name is Levinson) American woman is so clich├ęd. Perhaps the English are Yankee-bashers but this treatment was obvious and extreme!! Julian Fellowes has shown so many subtle touches in the past, it's truly disappointing that his wizardry has begun to fail.